Keeping It Simple

record-33583_1280I came across something I wrote years ago about early rock records that seems even more relevant today, given the ubiquity of computer-generated robopop...

I was prompted this weekend to take a fresh listen to Ye Auld Hit Parade, so I could hear how those rock & roll classics stand up, almost 60 years later. (Is rock that old??)

Well, after listening to a sample of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley tunes, I'd have to say I'm a tad disappointed. Disappointed that so little of that pure, unadorned rock & roll feel has survived into the present, where complex arrangements and overwrought production can stifle the simple rhythm and primitive back beat that characterize great rock & roll.

But if you want to hear the real thing, just fire up your iTunes and sample Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Richard's "Keep A-Knockin','' or Presley's "Hound Dog." (Go ahead, do it!) If you haven't heard these songs—or heard them lately—you'll be in for a surprise. Anyone with a pulse should be bowled over by the energy, power, and clean simplicity of these hits.

Chuck Berry virtually invented basic rock guitar playing (as in “Roll Over Beethoven”). Little Richard, the musical fundamentalist, put on a clinic in rock & roll wailing ("Lucille"). And Presley always used the best bare-bones rhythm section around (check out "Don't Be Cruel"). Not much extraneous in these grooves. I hate to sound Churchillian, but never has so much been communicated with so little.

Simplicity rules. Any designer or engineer can tell you that. Make things accessible—easy to understand, easy to grasp, easy to assimilate. (Think Apple. Think Google. Think Amazon.)

I hear this from product development teams, IT engineers, marketers, advertisers—in fields ranging from banking to healthcare to advanced technology. It's all part of design thinking—which anyone in business should get familiar with.

And the early rockers wrote the book on design simplicity.

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  1. Keith Richards and the Stones owe everything to Chuck Berrry. But where would rock 'n' roll be without Elvis? It wouldn't exist.

    1. All true. Chuck, Richard, and Elvis were the pioneers — and they influenced everyone who followed. Even Prince, whom I recently posted on, owed a heavy musical debt to them, especially to Little Ricard. Prince seemed to take on Richard's spiritual conflicts as well!

  2. Prince was preaching hard core religion late in life--going door to door as a Jehovah Witness trying to convert sinners. Must have shocked some people in Minneapolis.

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